CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Researchers at Texas A&M-Kingsville have received a $12 million grant to assist them with their research about the ocelot.
David Hewitt is the executive director of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. He said that these animals are native to the South Texas area.
“Ocelots are a small cat,” Hewitt said. “They are about the size of a bobcat. Beautiful spotting pattern, long tail and have been found from throughout southern and eastern Texas up into Louisiana and Arkansas.”
Hewitt told KRIS 6 News that the ocelot is cherished for its striking appearance. He added that these animals are on the endangered species list in Texas.
"Our best estimate now is about 100 ocelots in the state, but they're shy, allusive, and they live in really thick, dense brush, and so, it's hard to get a really solid count on them,” he said.
To try and revise the decreasing number, Texas A&M-Kingsville and the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute have received a $12 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Researchers said the purpose of this grant will be to focus efforts on the conservation of the ocelot and increase their population.
“Small population and their range is really restricted,” he said. “So, if there was a hurricane, or disease, or wildfire, we could lose all the ocelots we have in Texas right now. So, one of the big aspects of the project is to identify a place new place to establish an ocelot population away from the coast.”
Against the backdrop of this alarming reality, the Texas A&M-Kingsville and Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute are rising as guardians of hope.
“The ultimate goal is to get enough ocelots around where people can see them, enjoy them, and have them around to be a part of the natural iconology here in South Texas.”
Research says that architectural work is already underway for the ocelot research facility.